- The New England Patriots have reportedly cut quarterback Cam Newton.
- The departure of Newton means that the Patriots will go with rookie Mac Jones as starting quarterback.
- Veteran Brian Hoyer will be Jones’ backup. Jarrett Stidham is on the ‘physically unable to perform’ list but can come off later this season.
The decision by the New England Patriots to release quarterback Cam Newton was both surprising and inevitable. In the long term, it was evident that the Pats were looking to Mac Jones to be their franchise quarterback. Historical precedent made that obvious as early as NFL Draft night. Jones was selected by the Patriots in the first round with the 15th overall pick. The last quarterback drafted by New England in the first round was Drew Bledsoe in 1993. Bledsoe was also the last rookie quarterback to start in Week 1 of the regular season that year and barring anything unforeseen Jones will be in the same situation this year.
The move was surprising since head coach Bill Belichick had repeatedly affirmed Newton’s status as starting quarterback. He had received the bulk of first team reps in practice and started all three of the Patriots’ preseason games. He was clearly more comfortable in New England’s offense than he was last year and the ‘eye test’ suggested that he was in better physical shape.
None of that may have mattered. News outlets as divergent as the New York Times and the local Boston sports media are strongly suggesting that his COVID-19 vaccination status might have also played a role. In their report on Newton’s release WBZ-CBS Boston dropped a Bill Belichick quote:
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick famously said “dependability is more important than ability.”
WBZ Sports Director Steve Burton makes the case that Newton’s COVID protocol ‘screw up’ could have been the deciding factor or at least one of them. Newton was forced to miss a week of practice following what the team characterized as a ‘misunderstanding’ of COVID protocols. This could have been the turning point that brought about his release:
“The week that Cam Newton missed was the biggest selling point for Mac Jones. He came through big time that week. I think the vaccination plays a huge role in all of this because you can’t tell whether or not another thing is going to happen that catches the Patriots off guard. And this completely caught the Patriots off guard.”
The question now turns to Newton’s future in the NFL. At age 32, he’s still young enough to be a valuable addition to a team. While he’d obviously like to remain a starting quarterback there could be some interest to have him serve in a backup role a la Teddy Bridgewater in New Orleans over the past couple of years.
BetOnline.ag has posted these odds on the next team to sign Cam Newton:
NEXT TEAM TO SIGN CAM NEWTON NFL BETTING ODDS
Cowboys +450 Washington Football Team +650 Colts +700 Steelers +700 Ravens +800 Texans +800 Panthers +800 Dolphins +800 Lions +1000 Vikings +1000 Jets +1000 Cardinals +1100 Titans +1400 Bengals +1400 Seahawks +1400 Rams +1600 Chiefs +3300 Bucs +4000
Houston could be the best value option on the board and particularly if Newton is adamant about holding out for a starting opportunity. Deshaun Watson remains on the Texans’ roster but who knows how his civil and legal issues will shake out? Assuming Watson isn’t an option this year the Texans’ depth chart at quarterback isn’t very inspiring with journeyman Tyrod Taylor and rookie Davis Mills in the top two spots. The Texans are expected to be a lousy team this year–their O/U win total at BetOnline.ag is 4 with the ‘Under’ at -150. Newton would obviously prefer to play for a contender but that might not be an option if he’s going to insist on a starting role. A team that’s not expected to go anywhere might be less concerned about Newton’s vaccination status assuming that he still refuses to take off his tin foil hat.
Another potential starting opportunity would be with the Washington Football Team. Newton played for head coach Ron Rivera in Carolina and the WFT quarterback situation is such that he would quickly be ‘in the mix’ to start if not the obvious best option. Ryan Fitzpatrick will be the starter to begin the season with Taylor Heinicke as his backup. Newton might get an opportunity to start ahead of Heinicke should Fitzpatrick get injured or perform poorly. Newton’s vaccination status could also be an issue here–earlier in the preseason Rivera went public with his frustration over the WFT’s low vaccination rate. He might not be predisposed to bring in a quarterback that would present a very realistic chance of making the coach deal with more COVID nonsense.
Dallas is favorite and there’s been plenty of speculation that the Cowboys would be interested if Newton would be willing to serve in a backup role behind Dak Prescott. For now, Cooper Rush has been penciled in as Prescott’s backup and Newton would certainly be a better option in that role. The Atlanta Falcons are an interesting omission from this betting market as they’re in desperate need of an upgraded backup for Matt Ryan. A.J. McCarron is out for the year leaving Atlanta with Felipe Franks and recently acquired Josh Rosen as the only other quarterbacks on the depth chart. Then again, Matt Ryan has missed only one start since 2009 so Newton would likely spend the entire season holding a clipboard. Bovada has the Falcons as a +1300 choice to sign Newton.